It IS Okay To Break The Rules (Even During The Holidays)

I’ve been a bad blogger lately. I haven’t posted in some time! While I have been incredibly busy, I have also been putting my writing in a box. And it’s time to change that, starting now.

If you follow me on social media, you probably learned that I am in a new relationship. I don’t know if you have seen the Match.com commercial of the woman enthusiastically telling everyone, including the police officer who stopped her for a ticket, “I met someone!”. That’s kinda been me lately, and I don’t have much shame about it. I’m really proud of the person I am with, what they have accomplished, and the space I met them in.

THE CANCER SPACE. DUN DUN DUN.

You read that correctly folks. In this club nobody wants to be in, some pretty amazing things can happen. And I find that really incredible. I’m going to delve a lot deeper into this new, crazy, beautiful thing later. But right now I wanted to share with you a lesson that I was reminded of this week. One that I hope will encourage you this holiday season.

On paper, Tommy and I shouldn’t work. We just shouldn’t. I could list you all the reasons, but the relevant one for this post is that he is from Western New York and I am from East Texas.

I kinda feel the gasps and mouth covering from here, so let’s tone it down guys.

I sincerely hope you’ve realized at this point that I look at life differently. I always try to find the funny in even the most tragic of times in my life. While some may see our cultural challenges and say “that’s not for me”, I go “this is going to make some great stories and jokes” and has it ever. You might see a stand up special from me sooner than later with all the amazing material I am getting. This relationship was a great investment for my comedy career.

On November 23rd, during a chilly evening in Rochester, NY, I was out with my dude. We just had a fabled “garbage plate” (Rochester famous) at a place called Dogtown. It was my very first and therefore a rite of passage I needed to complete. Tommy smiled happily across the table while after each bite I proclaimed “this is delicious! wow! so good!”, knowing that my excitement wasn’t just an endorsement of the tastiness of the food, but also me accepting his culture with my full heart. I know he greatly appreciated my willingness to embrace everything we did that was uniquely NY.

Wearing winter clothes with my hand in his, we went back to the car. After driving to a dessert place and promptly finding out that it was closed for the day, we sat in the parking lot while he tried to find a solution. As he scrolled on his phone looking for options, he uttered a sentence that if I had my luggage, I probably would have asked to be taken to the airport (since we were in the car anyways) :

“Can’t have ice cream, that ship has sailed for this year.”

I looked at him the entire time he spoke it. I looked at him afterwards. I don’t think he noticed my facial expression of terror and confusion. Here I had this handsome, accomplished, caring, wonderful man next to me…but he said this. It was hard to reconcile.

All you non-Texans listen up. You know when ice cream season is? Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. 365 (0r 361) 24/7, baby! Ice cream is only off limits when you are on the low iodine diet, but other than that, ALL THE TIME. The cold doesn’t stop me either. I got in front of a fire, under a blanket, and in warm pajamas eating Blue Bell’s classic peppermint flavor with snow outside one year. No regrets. Now, Tommy swears ice cream season is April at earliest and October AT LATEST. And when the topic came up this week, I knew this had to change.

After about 30 minutes of texting my ice cream in winter stories, Tommy wondered what flavors do you eat in these times. When I explained seasonal flavors, he was amazed. There was a world where ice cream was never ending, and he wanted to live there. Tommy went on a beautiful and inspiring tangent that we should enjoy the foods we want, when we want them. Like breakfast for dinner? Don’t see why not! He was finally ready. He said he would stop by the grocery store Wegmans after work and see if they had ice cream.

Ladies and Gentlemen, when that time came my phone started blowing up with pictures and texts. Not only can you get ice cream in December there, but you can also get the seasonal flavors he was so fascinated with. He was overwhelmed by the selection and requested my many years of winter ice cream expertise. I told him to start with peppermint. As evident by this text, he said no.

Yes, WNY folks. I did misspell Wegmans. I am still learning.

Since I wasn’t there, I like to imagine the ride home. Did he pull his hood up so nobody could see his identity? Was he constantly checking around him for cops believing he had frozen contraband? Did he sheepishly drive up to his house expecting a SWAT team waiting from a anonymous tip made from that very Wegmans? I’d like to think so because it makes a funny story and even better point.

In a season with so many expectations: of where to be, what to do, and even what you eat, it isn’t possible to meet those all the time when you have cancer, a chronic illness, or health challenges. And you know what? That’s okay.

I hope you create a time that not only works good for you, but makes you happy as well.

I hope you let go of expectations and realize that isn’t what makes it a holiday or gathering.

And I really hope you are supported in all of this.

Tommy enjoyed his ice cream that night. Nothing bad happened. The only risk was stepping outside of his comfort zone and the letting go of the beliefs that prevented him for enjoying ice cream all these years. The holiday police don’t exist. Your mother-in-law might, but she cannot arrest you. All I want for Christmas this year is a safe, comfortable, loving season for you.

I hope you let go of any belief that might limit you from enjoying what you can in these circumstances and the courage of going outside your expectations. Eat the foods you want or are able to. Be around the people you want. And go, or not go, to as many things as you want. You aren’t doing it wrong, you’re doing it exactly the way you need it.

And that’s exactly right.

Alexa Loves AYA’s: Everything Is Alright

Hello again my dear friend! I wasn’t sure exactly sure what our song selection would be, but I noticed a pattern.

Many of you had a difficult week.

From pain flares, financial issues, medication side effects, family/friend drama, a bad scan, loss of a pet (including myself), problems with work, fatigue, poor sleep, anxiety, depression, goodness gracious it’s been rough!

I remembered this song from the mid-2000’s and felt it was a good fit. Our song dedication tonight is Everything Is Alright by Motion City Soundtrack.

If you listen to the song, you hear about a person who is going through a lot and struggling. But you also see the self-convincing pep talks and reassuring that “everything is fine!” to others.

It’s okay if everything isn’t quite fine.

It’s important to me that you know I saw all your struggles this week , regardless of what they were. They are valid. You don’t need to tell me (or anyone else) that is everything’s fine. There are many days in our lives. Good ones, bad ones, and even the long boring ones. As this week comes to a close, I am hoping for a week filled with good ones for us all. I want to leave you with this thought:

Be gentle with yourself, you are doing the best you can.

I love you, remember that.

Thanks for tuning in to this edition of Alexa Loves AYA’s and spending part of your evening with me. Feel free to send a link or tag on social media if a loved one needs to hear this. I look forward to dedicating another song to you and expressing my more of heart next week! I can’t wait to visit with you again, dear friend.

Alexa Loves AYA’s: Like We Belong

Hey dear friend, I’m back! I’m sure you heard I was at the first ever Global Virtual Cancer Conference last Saturday. I had so much fun watching the conference at home and later being on the panel of a session called “So, You’ve Got The Good Cancer?” We talked all about the myths struggles of having a so called “good cancer” with plenty of jokes and laughs.

Missed GVCC 19? You can still attend! All sessions, booths, and clinical trial fairs will be online for 60 days after the conference. Go to gvcc19.com ! To view my session go to “Auditorium”, click the auditorium screen, click the “Live” tab, scroll down until you find our session (you will see the title, my picture and name) and click “Play” at the right hand corner.

With that in mind, I have chosen Like We Belong by Gawvi as our song dedication tonight!

Do you truly believe that your experience matters? Are you more intimidated to share your story next to more “famous” people in our community?

I want to shout something from the rooftops!

Celebrity has no room in advocacy or our community.

Don’t get mistaken, I am not referring to humble successful advocates or highly visible people who serve, they help so much! Not to mention they would tell you the exact same thing, they started off small too, after all. I love many of these folks. “Celebrity” is something else entirely, and you can usually tell. They don’t want to engage, they just want followers. They want perks, not work. Celebrity has ego, and they don’t want competition. They have friends (who are more like fans) that may even attack up-and-comers because they like the benefits they receive by association. Some groups might even be unwelcoming, forgetting that they were once outcasts before they found their friends.

Ignore these people, it’s just noise. I want to assure you that there is not only more than enough room for you, but we need you. We need your experience. Common cancer? So what! You had your own path. Rare disease? Absolutely!

Everyone’s experience matters, and that doesn’t come with an asterisk. That means EVERYONE’S!

We belong here, we belong TOGETHER!

You belong here. And if someone tells you otherwise, tell them Alexa has your back.

Thanks for tuning in to this edition of Alexa Loves AYA’s and spending part of your evening with me. Feel free to send a link or tag on social media if a loved one needs to hear this. I look forward to dedicating another song to you and expressing my more of heart next week! I can’t wait to visit with you again, dear friend.

Alexa Loves AYA’s: She’s Not Just A Pretty Face

You already know what time of the week it is. That’s right, It’s Alexa Loves AYA’s time!

As September comes to a close and we welcome October in, I have a few thoughts to share with you. September is an awareness month to so many important cancers! Childhood Cancer, Leukemia/Lymphoma, Gynecological Cancer (Cervical, Vaginal, Uterine/Endometrial, and Vulvar cancer), Ovarian Cancer, Prostate Cancer, and of course Thyroid Cancer.

ALL OF THESE MATTER! I’ve been so disappointed to see several retailers (large and small) jumping the gun on Breast Cancer awareness month (which is in October, of course) to make a profit without actually making a difference. I was contacted by several on Instagram trying to sell me things even though my bio states I deal with thyroid cancer. So obviously, it inspired me for our song tonight. I am dedicating She’s Not Just A Pretty Face by Shania Twain to you (if it’s your awareness month or not!).

Are you any of the things listed in this song? If not, it still applies to you! If you deal with any type of cancer or chronic health condition, you already know your advocacy isn’t only for one month or day. It’s every single day. And it’s not just with social media posts, clothing/accessories, or media. It’s at the doctor’s office standing up for yourself or educating a friend.

I love to remind you that you aren’t your diagnosis, but here is another reminder. Your condition is not your ribbon, color, or mascot. It’s your daily realities. Cancer or a chronic illness is not glamorous, cute, (that doesn’t mean you aren’t glamorous or cute!) or even palatable. It’s downright ugly. Don’t be afraid to be honest about that!

Ladies of all cancer types and ages, you are more than just a pretty face. You are not a commodity to profit off of. You make tangible changes in our world. I’m celebrating you tonight!

Thanks for tuning in to this edition of Alexa Loves AYA’s and spending part of your evening with me. Feel free to send a link or tag on social media if a loved one needs to hear this. I look forward to dedicating another song to you and expressing my more of heart next week! I can’t wait to visit with you again, dear friend.

Alexa Loves AYA’s: Tacky

I have a special edition of Alexa Loves AYA’s for you.

THIS DEDICATION AND INVITATION IS OPEN TO EVERYONE, NOT JUST AYA’S!

I was really, uh, I guess you could say “inspired” (cough) by a story I heard this week. It was a combination of cancer, ignorance, and sheer hilarity. Something we (and serious/chronic illness) know all too well. I picked out a song that was just as silly as those encounters are. It is Tacky by “Weird Al” Yankovic.

I want to call out those comments for what they are: TACKY! Easy Cancer? Tacky! You’re Lazy? Tacky! My Granny died from that? Tacky! Want this one weird trick in your DM’s that cures your cancer/illness? Tacky! Sending flowers and a 3 page letter to guilt a cancer patient? SUPER TACKY!! Just to name a few!

Unfortunately, I can’t take away these comments from you as much as I would like to for the both of us. But I CAN try to make you laugh and remember this song when they come! When people make comments that are usually hurtful or ignorant at the very least, please remember they are just as tacky the lyrics in this song AND the music video.

I want to hear about YOUR tacky comments/experiences! Let me know on Social Media or here on the blog.

Thanks for tuning in to this edition of Alexa Loves AYA’s and spending part of your evening with me. Feel free to send a link or tag on social media if a loved one needs to hear this. I look forward to dedicating another song to you and expressing my more of heart next week! I can’t wait to visit with you again, dear friend.

Alexa Loves AYA’s: Joy Rides

Welcome back to Alexa Loves AYA’s! You may have noticed my absence the last two weeks. I shared on social media that I had a gut punching loss in my life who was also a fellow member of the AYA community. I needed some time to pull myself together. I would like to thank you so much for all your support and love you’ve given me during this difficult time. I have a special edition of ALAYA’s in memory of him that I will post when I’m ready. Until then, here is what I’ve picked out tonight.

I have loved this band since I saw the amazing music video for their song Typical. I listen to them almost daily due to their unique sound. This song is also deeply personal to me as I will explain later on. The song I want to dedicate to you today, dear friend, is Joy Rides by MuteMath.

I know, I know. This could be a confusing song choice for you! From lines “It all went wrong today” and “the good news is probably worse” why oh why did you pick this song Alexa?? I was listening to Joy Rides when I filled out the new patient paperwork at MD Anderson Cancer Cancer. Getting diagnosed with cancer was difficult and I needed to embrace that instead of “fixing” it right away. But at the same time I still had reason to be hopeful, even if it wasn’t that day. Life IS messy. That is why I like this song. It isn’t all happy or all sad. It’s an acknowledgement of the sad night, but hope for the coming joyful morning.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been going through what feels like a long night. I started questioning if morning was actually coming. Since the loss I’ve been on the quiet side (not like myself), not wanting to laugh or have too much fun. And it’s my cancer awareness month! I’ve been frustrated at my lack of “productivity”. A wonderful quote I heard is that grief is confusing, and it is! Grief isn’t just exclusive to the loss of a person, but maybe a body part, fertility, ability, or any other loss that comes with cancer or a serious/chronic illness. I hope you know it’s okay to grieve and let yourself take the time you need, even if means slowing down during an “important” time. It’s also okay to get help when it gets too overwhelming.

The song reminds us that “morning’s gonna come”. You may not be in your morning yet, and still in “it all went wrong today” phase. Until morning comes, whatever that looks like for the both of us, I will be there hoping. May our joy rides come sooner than later!

Thanks for tuning in to this edition of Alexa Loves AYA’s and spending part of your evening with me. Feel free to send a link or tag on social media if a loved one needs to hear this. I look forward to dedicating another song to you and expressing my more of heart next week! I can’t wait to visit with you again, dear friend.

Alexa Loves AYA’s: On The Inside

Welcome back to Alexa Loves AYA’s! Each week I dedicate a song to adolescent/young adults (AYA) with cancer or a serious/chronic illness and share some encouraging words along with it. I usually post on Saturday, but today is the two year anniversary of when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas. Since I am a patient at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, I wanted to share some thoughts about Harvey. I will be talking more about it tomorrow, but this song is also dedicated to the incredible people of Houston.

I have a real treat for you today! I actually just learned about this band. When I heard this song the first time I couldn’t help but think of AYA’s. It quickly became a personal anthem for me. My song for you today is “On The Inside” by GFM. They are a rock group made up of sisters. I know it may be more intense than you are used to, but give it a shot!

I love seeing metal screaming with their girly and glamorous look. They call it Beautycore!

I dedicate this song to you while you are in the process of rebuilding your life in the aftermath of your situation. I know cancer or illness is a hurricane that throws everything into chaos. Your job, education, relationships, social life and dreams. It doesn’t care! I remember visiting Houston for the first time after Hurricane Harvey. You could see how high the flooding hit. But what struck me the most was the trees and flowers lacked color, like their spirit was drained out with the water. I saw places I knew so well become empty with “Closed for Renovations. God Bless Houston!” signs on them. To say it was devastating doesn’t begin to do it justice.

Houston isn’t exactly the same as it was, but guess what? Those closed establishments came back with booming business. The water finally dried out. Color returned to nature after all. I don’t know what rebuilding your life looks like for you. It could be anything from trying to get your pain under control in daily life or picking up where you left off in school for your career dreams. I want you to know that I believe in you as much as I believed in Houston! I believe you ARE rebuilding. While It might look different than your previous life did, I believe you will survive the challenge of putting things back together in a way that works for you. There IS so much left to your story, even with the new found physical and emotional scars. If it helps to scream this song in the mirror as a reminder, go for it! I’m in the process of rebuilding my own life right beside you. We will get through this!

FYI: GFM has some fun vlogs from touring that you might enjoy watching if you are bored at the hospital or can’t sleep. You can check them out at their YouTube page.

Thanks for tuning in to this edition of the Alexa Loves AYA’s and spending part of your evening with me. Feel free to send a link or tag on social media if a loved one needs to hear this. I look forward to dedicating another song to you and expressing my more of heart next week! I can’t wait to visit with you again, dear friend.